The New Johari Window #22: Quadrant Two: The Locus of Control
James had previously served as chief of staff to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was absolutely loyal to Douglas and super-competent. After about a year and a half, however, Douglas began to feel a little uneasy about his leadership role in the association. His four vice presidents were increasingly quiet during meetings with Douglas and even seemed to be hostile or at least resentful. James kept reassuring Douglas that everything was going fine and that Douglas was being very productive both inside and outside the office. Yet, Douglas felt uneasy and eventually decided to bring me into his organization to conduct confidential interviews with his vice presidents.
Data gathered from these interviews were startling. First, Douglas’s vice presidents were indeed frustrated and angry. They had sent many memos and e-mails to Douglas that addressed specific concerns. Increasingly, their memos and e-mails were about their more general concern that Douglas was unavailable to them. It seems that James screened all memos and e-mails. He told the VPs that Douglas was under a lot of stress and shouldn’t be hassled with their “petty” concerns. Thus, even when the VPs met privately with Douglas they said little about what was really bothering them—given that Douglas supposedly had received their memos and e-mails (which he didn’t) and was simply indifferent to their concerns or had “bigger fish to fry!” Everyone remained mute given the deeply-embedded political culture of this association and the long-standing tradition (which Douglas didn’t support) of firing “troublesome” VPs.
When Douglas received the consultation report, he “blew his stack.” James was immediately going to be fired and Douglas was immediately going to set up a weekend retreat with his VPs to get things “ironed out.” A bit of restraint and reflection were advised. First, it was clear that James meant no ill. He was trying to do what he thought was “best” for Douglas. An alternative plan was adopted that involved giving James clearer guidelines. James was to open up the channels of communication (Q1) and feedback (Q2) between Douglas and his VPs.